USM Cybersecurity Student Profiles

Roderick Dillard, University of Maryland Eastern Shore '17

Roderick B. Dillard, who works for the Maryland Department of Education, has the distinction of being the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's (UMES') first graduate of the cybersecurity engineering technology program.

It's the 54-year-old Navy veteran's third degree; he earned a business administration degree from Mt. St. Mary's College in his native New York in 1985 and a Master's degree in management information systems from Bowie State University four years ago.

"It was a challenge being a full-time employee," he said of his Bowie State experience, which required in-person attendance. "But if the window of opportunity is there, you take advantage of it."

UMES' cybersecurity degree is part of a new frontier in higher education; it is offered online with interactive sessions involving students around the country.

"What worked for me was that each degree complimented the previous degree and created a greater body of work," he said.

UMES officials are particularly excited to offer vital training opportunities for adult learners who want to go into the cybersecurity field.

"The UMES program is designed specifically to prepare graduates with the skills and knowledge to manage cybersecurity response teams as well as protect information technology and cybersecurity infrastructure," said Dr. Derrek B. Dunn, chair of UMES' Department of Technology. "The university is excited to provide this vital training in a field that touches many lives."

A unique aspect of UMES' cybersecurity curriculum, he noted, is that courses can be scheduled in any order. Students who take two courses semester year-round - fall, spring and summer - should be on schedule to graduate in 18 months.

Christian Johnson, University of Maryland, College Park '17

"I was one of those kids who applied to every college under the sky," said Christian Johnson a recent alumnus of the University of Maryland, College Park. He was looking for a school with a highly rated computer science program and proximity to professional resources, all of which UMD fit. "But ACES was what actually sealed the deal for me," he said. He saw potential in joining a program in its infancy that was directly related to computer science but would also allow him to expand his knowledge and interests at the same time. Johnson joined ACES in Fall 2013 and took advantage of all the opportunities that the program offered. In his freshman year, he was asked to be the undergraduate representative for a team compiled by the university president to address security issues. He won many awards throughout his time as a student as well, including the ManTech Cyber Security Scholarship his junior year.

He worked hard to get from ACES all that he wanted. "When I came in as a freshman," he said, "it didn't take more than two weeks for me to know that I was in it to do it for four years." He made that wish a reality as the first student board president. Johnson worked with ACES staff to create the ACES minor.

Beginning in early 2015, Johnson began working as an intern with Northrop Grumman, where he stayed for two years. He worked full time over breaks and stayed on throughout the semester part-time as a cyber software engineer. That experience and his education in computer science and cyber security led him to his current position.

Now Johnson works at Amazon Web Services as a systems development engineer, also known as an operational excellence engineer. He began working part-time the spring before his graduation, beginning full-time once he earned his degree. "Both the computer science education and the cybersecurity education are both extremely valuable in my job," Johnson said. Johnson cites ACES' strong corporate partnerships as one of the main reasons he is where he is now. "The level of corporate engagement is a unique aspect of the program," he said. "ACES is really instrumental in providing career development and exposure. In general, ACES provided a level of exposure to the professional world that I have not seen out of almost any program at Maryland before."

He is looking forward to continuing his career at Amazon Web Services and seeing more ACES students reach success in their academic and professional lives. He said, "I'm very excited going forward seeing the strengthened relationship between the alumni community and the incoming students."

Lauren Mazzoli, University of Maryland, Baltimore County '15

As a child, Lauren Mazzoli loved science labs, solving math problems at the board, and even leading group projects. She might not have been the best in her class, but she was always eager to learn. However, that all changed once she reached middle school. The adults in her life started telling her that it was okay to get a B in science since "girls don't really need to know that stuff anyway," and that she shouldn't lead her group projects because she was "too bossy." Without realizing it, Lauren slowly lost her confidence and interest in science. Years later, Lauren visited UMBC for a campus tour, and she found a place where she felt safe being herself. The mix of students actively engaging in labs and the professors supporting every student were two of the main reasons why Lauren transferred to UMBC and would ultimately find her passion for computer science and mathematics.

Lauren was one of nine students who comprised the first cohort of Cyber Scholars at UMBC, helping to shape the program into what it has become now, five years later. As a student, Lauren was a computer science and math double major and worked approximately 20 hours per week in the IT security department of the division of information technology on campus, getting hands-on cybersecurity experience. She maintained an impressive GPA and still found time to serve as a mentor to younger Scholars in the program. She also had the opportunity to build an important mentoring relationship with her industry mentor, Donna Dodson, chief cybersecurity advisor at NIST. Having a senior cybersecurity professional as a mentor and participating in the majority-women communities provided by the Cyber Scholars and Center for Women in Technology at UMBC helped Lauren to maintain her confidence as she advanced through her degree program and completed an internship at the Department of Defense.

After earning her bachelor's degree in May 2015, Lauren decided to accept an offer from Northrop Grumman as a cyber software engineer and pursue her master's degree in computer science part-time at UMBC. She has earned several internal awards at Northrop Grumman as well as the Rising Star awards through both the Women's Society of Cyberjutsu and the UMBC Alumni Association since her graduation. She earned her master's degree in May 2017 and has recently become a part of Northrop's competitive Future Technical Leaders program. She has also remained highly engaged with the Cyber Scholars Program, serving as a liaison between Northrop Grumman and the university to plan technical talks, hiring events, cyber competitions, and more for the students in the program.

Chimere Murrill , University of Maryland University College '16

Chimere L. Murrill was raised in Petersburg, Virginia, a small, rural city south of Richmond. The child of a single mother of two, Chimere was encouraged by her mother to excel academically because she understood the importance of education. In addition, Chimere's natural curiosity for computers and technology would propel her to sacrifice the security of small town life to venture into a wider world of opportunities.

In her early education, Chimere was placed in honors classes and her ambition was to attend university. Winning a partial track-and-field scholarship, Chimere entered Morgan State University, the largest historically black university in Maryland. There she eventually earned her bachelor's degree in computer information science and systems. At Morgan, Chimere joined the campus chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals and was elected vice president of her chapter. In 2004, she was given an internship at the global IT division of Black & Decker headquarters in Towson, Maryland. The internship continued for two years while she attended school full time and volunteered in the campus computer labs. Upon graduation, Chimere landed a position with IBM as a global technical consultant, where she acquired a security clearance.

Encouraged by a mentor, Chimere sought employment that would expose her to the most challenging cybersecurity work opportunities. Since then, she has been employed by VikTeck, a firm in Hanover, Maryland, providing cybersecurity and information assurance services to the Department of Defense. In this role, Chimere has worked on some of the highest-level security and intelligence missions protecting the U.S. from advanced persistent threats. Chimere honed her cyber skill set in the classroom as well as on the job. She completed her master's degree in cybersecurity at the University of Maryland University College in 2016.

Chimere works with disadvantaged youth to teach them the importance of setting personal goals to achieving success in life. She is also seeking resources that would support her efforts to develop a cyber program to introduce these youth to cybersecurity, network, and other technical concepts starting in eighth grade.

Carroll Reed III, Bowie State University '17

Carroll Reed III, a 2017 Bowie State University graduate, always knew he wanted to study computer science. As a college freshman, he arrived on campus with technology experience gained through high school computer programming classes and an engineering program. It wasn't until he started working with the university's signature STEM career and college pathways program, Education Innovation Initiative (EI2), that he developed an interest in cybersecurity.

"Cybersecurity is a field with so many jobs available, but so few Americans have the skills needed to work in those positions," he said. As it turns out, Reed had come to Bowie State at the perfect time. He joined a newly formed student group called the Forensic Technology Information Cyber Squad, led by computer science professor Lethia Jackson. The students have played a major role in Bowie State's partnership with 12 other historically black colleges and universities, which received $25 million over five years to build programs for minorities to study cybersecurity from middle school through college.

Reed and his fellow Cyber Squad members collaborated with a Wisconsin-based national cybersecurity facility called the Morgridge Institute for Research to test the Software Assurance Marketplace (SWAMP) before it launched. Through his research with this opensourced, high-performance computing tool, Reed became an expert at writing code and detecting code weaknesses. "We created the user manual and protocols for SWAMP users," he said. "We also reported errors and bugs within the system." All of those research findings, including errors and corresponding solutions, were shared ahead of SWAMP's launch to ensure that the tool was functioning properly. Today, SWAMP is open to all programmers in any language seeking to confirm the security of their code.

The Cyber Squad has also participated in national contests including the National Security Agency Codebreaker Challenge and multiple hackathons, where they met several industry professionals. Dr. Jackson also played a key role in Reed's personal and professional development. "She taught me the importance of strong communication skills, and she makes sure you know how to present yourself."

Like other Cyber Squad members, Reed earned valuable internships, including a job with the NIST. For two summers, he worked on significant NIST projects-one involving security certificates, and the other rewriting the security protocol. With all of his hands-on training and real-world experience, Reed was highly prepared for his current position at the tech company Customer Value Partners. He also has a global view of the cybersecurity field.

Only six months after earning his bachelor's degree, Reed is already looking for ways to make an impact in cybersecurity and positively influence his community. Next, he plans to pursue a master's degree in data science or cybersecurity management. His ultimate goal is to open a technology school for minority youth to increase the number of Americans who are equipped to protect the country against cyber threats.

Brandon Moody, Towson University

Brandon Moody never leaves home without a certain textbook from his cybersecurity case studies class. Well, that's an exaggeration, but he does always have the book on hand at his internship with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General.

"It almost acts as a bible," jokes the senior, who says the case studies class was excellent preparation for his position as an information technology auditor/specialist at the government agency. In fact, it was Towson's highly respected computer science program that drew Moody to attend in the first place, despite acceptances from other prestigious institutions. (Towson's in-state tuition and proximity to his family didn't hurt either.)

"Everything relies on computers," explains the west Baltimore native, emphasizing the importance of learning to protect information systems from threats. And Towson's academics are giving Moody the first-class training he needs to be part of the new generation of computer scientists safeguarding information from hackers whose deeds increasingly dominate headlines.

Additionally, engaging with the Cybersecurity Club, Black Student Union, and multiple honor societies is helping Moody jump-start his career through professional networking and exposure to people from a variety of backgrounds.

"I like the diversity at Towson," says Moody. "Being around different types of people prepares you for a professional environment."

The text above is exerpted from the Business-Higher Education Forum's report on USM's effort to meet cyber workforce needs. Read the full report here and a press release about the report here.